Cincinnati Post: Jury clears bar 'hero'

A Hamilton County grand jury Friday refused to indict a Northside man who last week shot and wounded an armed robber inside a neighborhood bar.

The alleged robbers, however, are facing a total of 19 felony charges stemming from the May 8 incident.

Grand jurors ignored charges of carrying a gun into a liquor establishment and felonious assault that prosecutors had filed against Harold "Hal" McKinney.

McKinney, 54, a member of Cincinnati's Citizens on Patrol program, had stopped briefly at Junker's Tavern on Langland Avenue to talk to customers about joining the organization when two masked men entered the bar with guns drawn shortly after 11 p.m., demanding money. McKinney, who wasn't on patrol duty that night, pulled out a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol and shot one of the men, Joseph Person, in the head, according to police.

Person's alleged accomplice, Demeico Hester, was found by police a short time later hiding in a Laundromat adjacent to the tavern.

Since the shooting, friends raised $2,500 to get McKinney released from jail on bond, the incident has been discussed on radio talk shows nationwide and he has become a symbol in efforts to get a concealed-carry gun law passed in Ohio.

"The grand jury reflects the community," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen. "The only thing that I can surmise is that the grand jury felt the elements of the offense were not there."

Grand jurors indicated that McKinney's actions were justified, and Allen said he didn't have a problem with that assessment.

"This community has absolutely had it with violent crimes," Allen said. "They've had it. I hear it every day. Three, four, five, six times a day. You read it in the newspaper, you hear it on the radio. They've had it."

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Mark Naegel, McKinney's attorney, said the grand jury acted appropriately.

"I'm very pleased and relieved, and I know Mr. McKinney is, as well," Naegel said.

Although Ohio doesn't have a concealed-carry gun law, unlike Kentucky and Indiana, state law allows a person to carry a firearm if there is reasonable cause to believe his or her life is threatened, Naegel said.

According to police statistics, Northside ranks ninth out of 52 Cincinnati neighborhoods for more serious crimes like murder, assault, robbery and burglary.

Junker's is one block away from a clothing store where a police officer encountered a suspected burglar in February. The officer chased the suspect and, after a brief struggle, shot and killed him in an alley.

In July, a man shot on a nearby street collapsed in front of Junker's Tavern, yelling for workers at the bar to call his friends for help.

Some of the roughly half-dozen patrons in the bar at the time of the shooting said they thought McKinney might have saved them from injury or death.

Click here to read the entire story in the Cincinnati Post.

Click here to read the entire story in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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